The formation of the Washtenaw Area of Michigan Call to Action was initiated in July, 1996, to explore the possibility of forming a local group. Several people came together to talk about why we wanted to meet and what needs we had that were unmet in our respective parishes. Giving people time to tell their stories proved to be very important to everyone and quite necessary. It was apparent early on that we were a grieving people, grieving over a church that isn't but should be. We took a few months to just share stories and let people uncover (and discover) their feelings, thoughts, convictions and visions oncerning our church. We also talked about what we would want in a local group. Two things surfaced as goals: visibility and community. Soon enough we started working on visibility through public works such as having an information booth at the Ann Arbor Art Fair (every July more than 1/2 million people attend from all over), and having "Call to Action" in big letters along with names of parishes on a billboard in front of a home under construction through Habitat for Humanity. Community began to evolve as we became acquainted with one another. Call to Action's focus is on community because that's what we believe keeps us together and nurtures our growing as a group.
After months of trying different formats and discussing what authentic leadership means, we settled, at least for now, on a format that seems to work for us. Every month, we gathered on a Sunday afternoon at a member's home and: (1) hear a presentation by someone local about various topics of interest to us; (2) join together in eucharistic celebration and; (3) have a potluck meal and just visit with each other. Local presentations have been given by a former priest who was working at the Vatican during the Second Vatican Council; an author of a book called Global Population from a Catholic Perspective in which the author challenges the church's teachings on birth control; providing feedback about the Hague Appeal for Peace Conference; and other people with other topics. This seems to feed our brains and cravings for knowledge.
The eucharistic celebrations are "home grown," that is, developed by those who volunteer to design the liturgy for that particular gathering. After the national and state conferences, the presentation consists of feedback from people who attended the conferences. This way, we bring the national and state conferences to those who were not able to attend.
The potluck is never planned out with regard to who will bring what and we always have a great diversity of food and plenty to eat. We consider it a continuation of our eucharistic sharing. Community is built in this. We also have mini-rituals if the occasion calls for it. For instance, a member, Eileen, was traveling to El Salvador for the commemoration of Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination. Everyone stood in a circle and asked Eileen to tell us one hope and one fear she had about traveling to El Salvador. We then presented Eileen a rock, talked about how Jesus called Peter a rock and how we can be rocks for each other too. Everyone passed the rock around the circle blessing it and Eileen for her journey. We gave Eileen the rock and told her it was her prayer rock and it was a way she could take us with her. She did. It's these types of acknowledgements of steps in people's lives that people never get at a parish. We've had special gatherings for a members whose spouses/partners passed away.
It really is easy to start a local group. And we do need to practice being church because people are grieving the institutional church and need a spiritual forum – the parish seems to be a religious forum only. We believe CTA should help people learn how to do that.
Our monthly liturgies have moved to a permanent setting at Genesis on Packard Street in Ann Arbor. We meet on the last Sunday of each month from 1:00 PM – 4:30 PM.